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According to American Dan Zarrella, an award-winning blogger, “social media scientist” and author of two O’Reilly Media books, it can all be traced back to Saturday 8:07am GMT, when Twitter users began tweeting about receiving Broadcast Blackberry Messenger (BBM) messages of Mandela’s “death”.
Zarrella claims that the actual phrase “RIP Nelson Mandela” was then apparently tweeted at 8:40AM — an hour before it began to trend — for the first time by the user @lebolukewarm, a Johannesburg photographer who has since deleted his tweet. Lebolukewarm’s tweet was picked up and apparently retweeted at least 71 times within a few minutes, says Zarrella.
Lebolukewarm and those first few tweeters may have been the unwitting origin of the Twitter trend, but not the origin of the hoax message which came via BBM, which the photographer also received. The source of the original BBM message that started the hoax remains a mystery.
@lebolukewarm has strongly denied any connection to the hoax, tweeting: “I Did Not Start the Nelson Madela Hoax, i too fell victim of it.”
“… I apologise & regret tweetin it. I got the news via bbm & tweetd emotionally,” he tweeted.
Below is a graph of more than 6 000 tweets analysed by Zarrella over the weekend.
After the story broke on major news outlets, The Nelson Mandela Foundation and the African Nation Congress (ANC) released statements assuring the public that Mandela was alive and well.